Another batch of strong albums as year end list season approaches. Here are our picks for October 2023’s best heavy metal albums.
1. Wayfarer – American Gothic (Profound Lore)
With the climate of the USBM movement being of such varying degrees and considering the rich history and fabled tales of the Western US, it’s no surprise that a band like Denver’s Wayfarer eventually made their way onto the scene. Ten years of clad-in-black, romantic yet violent, pure outlaw black metal. Wayfarer’s highly-anticipated new album American Gothic is their fifth full-length.
A sinister ambience to absorb, heartwarming melodic sequences to savor and that telltale Western twang that calls to mind images of stallions in full stride under the cool glow of pale moon over canyon and sacred bonfires ablaze in the desert night. Each epic album cut alive and pulsating with newfound energy: black and bold, dramatic and visual from the opener “The Thousand Tombs of Western Promise” that lays down the thunder of a thousand horses trampling the plains with every dominating cadence and full-attention-demanding guitar riff, to the midway point in the stunning mood piece “A High Plains Eulogy” with its dreamlike lulls, all the way through to the blackened psychedelia of the closing track, “False Constellation.” American Gothic is an unforgettable black metal experience, and our choice for October’s best album.
2. Autopsy – Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts (Peaceville)
One year after Morbidity Triumphant, death doom institution Autopsy are back for another helping of ferocious death metal with their tenth full-length Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts. This is the second album to feature bassist Greg Wilkinson, who also plays with vocalist/drummer Chris Reifert in Static Abyss, a band who released their sophomore LP earlier this year.
Reifert also uses a cough and shout to add to his maniacal presence behind the mic coupled with his excellent battery work that goes to show him as an unparalleled death metal musician. “Coagulation” and its slow start allows the band a track to clean up the mess that they made during the album; a fitting end to the eternal misery that surrounds this band’s sound, but not before taking a few more steps towards their furious death metal speed, not to mention a rocking solo that gives life to this death metal as well. Ashes, Organs, Blood and Crypts is proof positive that Autopsy’s sanguine lust knows no bounds.
3. Afterbirth – In But Not Of (Willowtip)
Afterbirth are fearless in warping their brutal death metal with unexpected sounds for their third album, In But Not Of. This is the accumulation of everything the group has been working towards since their reunion in 2013 after almost 20 years apart. The band retains the gargled grunts and clanky rhythms, yet also uses synths and keyboards frequently along with expressive, soulful guitars.
The ever-shifting and distinct instrumentation done on “Hovering Human Head Drones” and “Time Enough Tomorrow” is excellent. It’s not about how fast they play but how they contort themselves to step beyond their brutal death metal ways. In But Not Of is an achievement, one that bands looking to step into their own should take copious notes on.
4. Theocracy – Mosaic (Atomic Fire)
Athens, Georgia-based Theocracy have been honing their craft for over twenty years now, the culmination of which is their fifth album, Mosaic. 2016’s Ghost Ship was a favorite around these parts, and it’s great to see the band back with ther power-prog style intact and as catchy as ever.
Yet another album clocking in at over an hour, Mosaic grabs your eardrums and never lets go. Matt Smith and band pull out all the stops across ten sumptuous, energetic, and diverse tracks. You want all-out power metal? It’s here. Balladry? Sure. Thrash? Yep, there’s a hint of that too. Epic prog? How about the nineteen-minute closing track “Red Sea.” All told, Mosaic is Theocracy’s best album.
5. Malokarpatan – Vertumnus Caesar (Invictus)
Slovakian stalwarts Malokarpatan are back with their signature classic heavy metal blended with the black metal and traditional European folk music on Vertumnus Caesar, their fourth album. Three years removed from the critically lauded Krupinské Ohne, this curious quartet has not lost a step including all manner of sounds on this album, including the genres mentioned before and even adding in sections of synths and medieval harpsichords to great effect on the album’s first proper song “Koár postupuje temnomodrými dálavami na juhozápad.”
The album’s title track opens to a booming voice leading into second wave black metal vocals and enough synths to make Mortiis blush. The heavy metal majesty and riffs of “Vovnútri chlácholivého útoita kunstkamru” show just how well Malokarpatan have curated this album, never knowing where the next burst of something different is going to come from. There is just so much contained within these eight tracks it almost feels like cheapening the album by explaining the surprises that are in store around every corner on this album. Vertumnus Caesar is one of the year’s most diverse and the band’s best album to date.
6. Krieg – Ruiner (Profound Lore)
Though it has been nearly a decade since Krieg‘s last full-length, the American black metal quintet has issued material in the interim. That includes two EPs, splits with Integrity, Leviathan and Crucifixion Bell, a collaborative release with The Body and a couple compilation albums.
Ruiner embraces the traditional USBM sound of previous albums, especially on songs such as “Solitarily, A Future Renounced,” but they expand their sound beyond that, such as cranking up the groove to black ‘n roll territory on tracks like “Fragments Of Nothing” that also has some guitar tones not typical for black metal. Intense songs like “Manifested Ritual Horror” have biting vocals and dense moments, but also parts that are downright catchy. The album closes with the 7 minute “The Lantern And The Key,” with ambient parts and dissonance spicing up the proceedings. Ruiner is a welcome return by Krieg, a wide-ranging and eclectic album with that’s compelling from start to finish.
Other 2023 Best Monthly Album Lists
January 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
February 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
March 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
April 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
May 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
June 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
July 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
August 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums
September 2023 Best Heavy Metal Albums